Music: My jaw is on the floor having made it through three spins of The Chap‘s first U.S. release, Mega Breakfast. A weird frappe of all sorts of musical styles, ridiculously clever lyrics, masterful production, odd/massed vocals, and some truly impressive bass and noisy lead guitar work, Mega Breakfast had one of the strongest first impressions on me that any new (to me) group or record has had in ages. Totally recommended. This means you. Go! Shop!

THE ROOSTER: I have a new archetypal animal in my life. There’s a sorta rundown looking little farm that I and my carpool-mates pass most days on my way home from work, and a few weeks ago, I noticed and realized that there was a mostly black rooster that was holding down his turf on the same corner, under the same tree, every day. He was large and in charge, for sure. Totally Buster Badass. One day, THE ROOSTER had some chickens with him, and he was strutting his stuff with more zest than normally. Yeah, boy! Then a few days after that, a tractor appeared on his corner! Then another tractor! And then a pickup truck! We don’t know quite what THE ROOSTER is planning with the equipment that he is amassing, but the co-pilot said he thought he saw a potato gun behind his tree today, so I’m thinking heavy weaponry is on the way. Watch out for THE ROOSTER. He don’t play.

Space: NASA turned 50 yesterday. Over the next couple of years, we will watch the final assembly of the International Space Station, the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet, and (hopefully) the launch of a new U.S. rocket/capsule concept that will allow us to get back out of low Earth orbit.

Until then, we have a wonderful collection of planetary probes on-site, most especially the Cassini-Huygens mission to the Saturn system returning amazing, surprising findings on a monthly basis, and a trio of exciting robots revealing stunning detail on Mars: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Phoenix Mars Mission, and the rugged, trusty Mars Exploration Rovers. Around the time that (hopefully) we begin to head outward toward the Moon again, the New Horizons spacecraft should reach the Pluto-Charon binary dwarf planet system.

I consider it one of the great, divine, magnificent privileges of my life to have been fortunate enough to live during one of the greatest eras of human exploration ever, even if many people today question whether it is necessary or desirable to pursue off-planet exploration. But consider this, for perspective: Sir Francis Drake’s crews became the second to ever circumnavigate the Earth in 1577-1580, 58 years (!) after Magellan’s crew did it the first time. Sometimes first voyages or explorations are so audacious and so astounding and so ahead of their time that it takes decades, if not centuries, for them to be revisited.

All of our trips to the moon occurred between 1969 and 1972, so if it takes us until 2027 to get back, then we haven’t done any worse as a species than we did on circumnavigating the globe. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing again. I can’t wait for it to happen.

Yummy: I’ve dropped about 18 pounds since returning from Argentina, in large part (I think) because I’m not nervously/boredly eating crap two or three nights a week, the way I was when I was still in school. I wrote a couple of months back about how important density of taste was to me when it came to cutting portion size, such as my still much-enjoyed sardines and caviar treat. I’ve been enjoying another relatively low-calorie snack that satisfies stupendously because it has good flavor. I make one of those 100-calorie bags of microwave popcorn (which generally taste like straw and twigs), and pour it into a bowl. (Food should only be eaten out of bags when one is at a sporting event. Just saying.) Then I take one tablespoon of real butter (margarine will not work) and about 1/4 teaspoon of dried cumin, and quickly, rapidly heat them together while stirring, until the butter just begins to brown. It’s crucial to get it out of the heat as soon as the color appears, before it burns. Pour that over the tasteless popcorn and toss. It’s got such a stupendous flavor (the delicious toasty greasiness of brown butter, the warm roastiness of the cumin), which works perfectly over the salty crunch of the popcorn. 200 calories, if you lick the bowl when you get to the bottom. Exceptionally satisfying.

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